January’s mega-media merger between Comcast Corp.
and NBC Universal has resulted in consolidation within the venture capital market. Comcast Interactive Capital and Peacock Equity Partners will be merged into a single unit called Comcast Ventures, led by veteran Comcast executive Amy Banse.
For the uninitiated, Comcast Interactive Capital was launched in 1998 to make investments in the media technology and infrastructure space, including Internet technologies. Its initial structure was as a quasi-independent firm — partners were compensated like traditional VCs — but with its entire $300 million commitment coming from Comcast. That dollar figure would later expand to $500 million, and the independent structure was abandoned in 2004 (coinciding with Julian Brodsky’s stepping back from day-to-day operations).
Peacock Equity Partners was formed in 2007 as a $250 million joint venture between General Electric and subsidiary NBC Universal Interactive. It was officially a 50/50 endeavor, but GE actually held a bit more because it held a 50% stake in NBC Universal Interactive. Peacock said in 2008 that its capital commitment had grown to $1 billion, but that does not appear to have actually been executed — based on today’s Comcast announcement about Comcast Ventures having $750 million in joint portfolio value.
To be clear, that $750 million refers to money already invested. Going forward, Comcast Ventures plans to invest approximately $75 million per year in companies focused on such things as digital media, e-commerce and entertainment. The primary mission will continue to be return on investment, rather than strategic value for the parent company.
I spoke earlier today with new boss Amy Banse, who said that Comcast Ventures has taken over management of the Peacock Equity portfolio, but that GE will still be called upon when existing portfolio companies require new capital. GE, for its part, has not guaranteed that such monies will always be forthcoming. “It will be on a case-by-case basis,” Banse said.
Banse declined to discuss personnel matters, such as why Peacock managing directors Tom Byrne and Brian Keil are not part of the combined group. Fellow Peacock managing director Megumi Ikeda remains, working out of the group’s London office.
My working theory is fairly simple: This is a merger that is really a takeover. Kind of like Comcast and NBC Universal. Nothing nefarious about it. Just one of the byproducts of corporate venture capital.